Charleston’s Gardens

I recently shared a few photos from the beautiful squares in Savannah.  During this same trip, my husband and I visited Charleston, South Carolina.  These cities are less than a two hour drive apart, making it easy to plan a trip to see both.  And while they each celebrate a rich history, they are uniquely different.  

It was November when we visited and during our time in Charleston it had unexpectedly turned a bit chilly, but the lovely private gardens we visited were still green and inviting.  My only regret is that we didn’t have the opportunity to see the Middleton Place Plantation garden’s, but I understand they are worth seeing in the spring when the azaleas are in full bloom…. another reason to revisit.

Until the next visit to Charleston, join me through a few highlights of some private gardens in the charming historic city.  

One of my favorite stops was an afternoon at the Calhoun Mansion, built in 1876.  This private home is open for tours during the day and while the 35-room Italianate mansion is a grand beauty, the owner’s private antiquities collection will leave you with mouth-agape.  However, despite the grandeur of the home and it’s eclectic contents, as  a gardener I appreciated the manicured city lot and the small formal gardens surrounding this estate.


(Above) One side of a double staircase welcoming visitors to the Calhoun Mansion.  I love the wrought iron railings, the bench, the diagonally-painted landing and the sago palm outgrowing it’s fabulous urn.   Below is another fabulous urn with a huge Sago palm.  I just love the juxtaposition of the perfectly trimmed boxwood hedge and the sprawling palm fronds.  


To be honest, I think I could have a love affair with Sago palms. I just love the feathery appearance of their fronds. Here’s an interesting fact, Sago Palms aren’t really palms.  These plants are actually from the cycad family, a prehistoric family of plants.  I’d love to add a few urns like the one above in my backyard landscape, but my greenhouse is nearly bursting at the seams right now.  I so wish they could survive a winter in zone 7a.  Darn.  


(Above) Here’s another hedge-lined pathway to a secret garden.  It just invites the curious to wander down it’s brick pavers.  (Below) This lovely fountain is perfectly situated behind a wisteria covered arbor.  I couldn’t resist snapping this photo from under the arbor’s dense foliage.  I didn’t notice at first glance, but the arch of the arbor is repeated in the archway behind the fountain.  The repetition of elements is so pleasing to the eye, and  the archways lend focus to the central fountain.

(Below) Not far from the grand fountain stood this absolutely charming stone bird house.  I marveled how it was positioned in sight of the fountain, but even in the presence of something so robust this charming statuary was not the least diminished.   


(Below) Another piece of statuary further emphasizes how art adds a needed balance in a garden.  (I’m already realizing where I need to add a piece or two in my own landscape to enhance each gardens appeal.  The Calhoun mansion gardens serve as fabulous inspiration.

Further inspiration from the formal garden’s at the mansion.  I can imagine how fantastic these perfectly clipped hedges must appear from upstairs, especially the third floor.  In fact the work and skill that it takes to maintain a formal garden is best appreciated from above. 


During another historic home tour, I spotted this amazing ancient wall.  It has weathered over the last century and it’s beauty is in it’s patina.  I’m especially fond of the ferns that have found a home in a crevice or two.  

(Below) I couldn’t resist a sneak peak inside a private garden.  The bench situated perfectly below the palmetto beckons a book and it’s reader to lounge.  The widely available, ceramic stools are great flanked on either side.


The historic district of Charleston is full of gardens and charm.  The palmetto’s are celebrated in this city and rightfully so, considering how they have contributed to the state’s rich history.  

There is so much to see and do while in the area. I could share so many more photos, but I encourage you to see it for yourself if you haven’t had the chance to visit Charleston, yet. I’ll leave you with this last image.

The charm of Charleston oozes from every scene, whether it’s an elaborate formal garden or quaint window boxes.  It’s worth a visit.  I recommend at least two-full days and maybe three or more.  I look forward to my return trip……someday.

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